Roe v. Wade: What does it say, what did it accomplish and who were the people behind the landmark U.S. court decision?

IN the early 1970s, the Supreme Court took up a landmark case titled Roe v. Wade to determine the future of abortion rights across the United States.

The ruling has been threatened by near-total bans on abortion that have been passed in Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi.

What is Roe v Wade?

The 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade asserted the 14th amendment and declared access to safe and legal abortion as a constitutional right.

The case was heard to decide if Texas' ban on abortions, which were completely outlawed except when a woman's life was in danger, was constitutional.

The Supreme Court voted 7-2 in favor of the right to an abortion.

It said women had a right to privacy, which meant it was up to them to decide whether to continue their pregnancy.

It also divided pregnancy into three trimesters, declaring that the first three months are solely at the discretion of the woman.

In the second trimester, the states can regulate abortions in the interests of the woman's health.

In the last three months, states can prohibit abortions in the interest of the fetus, provided the pregnancy will not bring harm to the pregnant woman.

Who was behind Roe v. Wade?

Justice Blackmun wrote the majority opinion in the case after the decision had been made.

He said: "We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires."

Also voting in support of Roe was Justices Burger, Douglas, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall and Powell.

What did Roe v. Wade accomplish?

After the decision 46 states needed to change their abortion laws to comply with the ruling.

Abortion has proved to be one of the most divisive moral issues in recent years, with 'pro-life' groups comparing the procedure to murder.

On the flip side, 'pro-choice' groups argue that abortion should be safe and legal for anyone who needs one.

The number of abortions performed each year has been falling.

For women ages 15 to 44, the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women) dropped 26 percent between 2006 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2006, US medical professionals reported performing 842,855 abortions but by 2015, that number dropped to 638,169.

Does Roe v. Wade still stand?

There have been many challenges to Roe v. Wade since it was established.

In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on late-term abortions, so-called partial-birth abortions.

This was the first time since Roe that the Court had upheld an abortion ban.

In 2016, it ruled that Texas cannot place restrictions that create an undue burden for women seeking an abortion.

Will the Supreme Court take up Mississippi's abortion arguments?

On May 17, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a major abortion case from Mississippi that could roll back limits on abortion laws cemented by Roe v. Wade.

The top court announced in an order that it will hear the dispute, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 19-1392.

The court will hear the case in its term beginning in October and a decision is likely to come by June 2022.

The case concerns a Mississippi abortion law passed in 2018 that bars abortions after 15 weeks with limited exceptions.

The law was blocked by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Under existing Supreme Court precedent, states may not ban abortions that occur before fetal viability, generally around 22 weeks or later."In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's abortion cases have established (and affirmed and re-affirmed) a woman's right to choose an abortion before viability," a panel of judges on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals previously said."States may regulate abortion procedures before viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman's right, but they may not ban abortions," the appeals court wrote, concluding that "the law at issue is a ban."

In this case, Mississippi is asking the justices to reexamine that viability standard.

The state argued that the viability rule prevented states from adequately defending maternal health and potential life.

The Mississippi abortion clinic that challenged the law, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, urged the top court not to take the case.

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